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Quick Guide To Copyright!

Copyright is a topic where no one really wants to ask the questions, in case they don't like the answers. On the internet, almost everything is available to us, so it's easy to forget that with great power, comes great responsibility - yep, I am a cheeseball. I have no doubt that every single one of you reading this post has breached copyright at some point in your life, most likely way more than once. This post sums up the basics of copyrights, licences, and what you usually sign up for when working with photographers, or when using social media platforms.

*Before I jump into it, I want to clarify that I don't have any legal background, and all info is based on my studies and what I have scissored together from the web. I only used sources such as and; I am hoping to be as accurate and reliable as possible.

The core element of the whole copyright, IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) is that every time you press the shutter button on your camera/phone, or the publish button on your post, the copyright ownership is yours. There is no extra technicality or legal protection needed. No watermark or small print necessary. These terms apply for all private, self-employed people, regardless if they've been commissioned by someone else - unless the contract states differently.  Now, when you are an employee and you create something as a part of your work, you don't have the same rights.

The most common question I get from clients is about the ownership of the photos I take for them. When you shoot with me, and with most photographers, you pay for our time, photography, editing skills and the use of the images. The ownership and copyright, however, stay with your photographer. If you are keen to own the right for your images, you should be prepared to pay thousands of pounds per image, depending on the artist.

If I am being a bit more technical, you (as a client) would usually get a non-exclusive, non-transferable (non-assignable), royalty-free license, without the right for the licensee to sub-license. Under these terms, both you and the photographer can use the images, but only the photographer holds the right to sub-license. If you wish to do the same, you need to contact the photographer and ask for permission. Depending on your photographer and type of sub-license, you or the enquiring company should expect a fee in return. The reason behind this is that it prevents third parties from making money off of the photographs, whilst the photographer doesn't profit from the transaction. You might say that you have already paid a fee, so why are they charging you twice? Most photographers, including myself, base our prices on an agreement that you are using the photographs only for yourself or for your business. This allows us to offer you the best available deals. As soon as a third party comes along, the rules change. While I was looking into the exact definition of non-transferable licensing, unable to find anything for a long time, I finally realised that in legal terms, the definition lies under non-assignable. I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but just to be clear, this term states that everything agreed between the licensor and licensee cannot be assigned to a third party. A royalty-free license means that, once you have paid for the services and the license, you can use the content as many time as you wish within the accepted ways. There are two other forms of license with regards to how many times you can use the images. Flat fee and rights-managed licenses both place a limit on how many times the content can be used and by whom.


Long story short, as a small brand or private person hiring a photographer, you only pay for the service, time, and the image license. This license will let you use the images as many times as you want - to infinity and beyond! If the image gets used by a third party however, the photographer needs to be notified, and in some cases, a fee will be charged. 

There are lots of questions around who owns your photos when you upload them to Instagram or Facebook. Most social media platforms work on non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licenses. This means that no, they don't own your images, however, as soon as you upload a photo or post, these platforms can do whatever they want with your photo/video/post. The rights and ownership are still yours, but as long as you are using their platform, they can use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content. As soon as you delete your image/video/post, with the exception of Google, the license you have granted will expire. In theory, these platforms can sell your content to a third-party marketing company, but this is unlikely to happen as it would only alienate their users.

Now, here is the catch, and where people, including myself, often make a mistake. Just because content has reached you, and is available to you, it doesn't mean it is there for you to take, use or do anything with, apart from indulging in it. Regardless of whether you credit the author or link back to the source, taking someone else's content without permission is stealing. Think about it, if you walk into Curry's and pick up a telly without paying, it doesn't matter if you tell everyone it's from Curry's, you still stole that freakin' telly! I am not saying that if you take a photo/video or any content without permission you will be sued straight away, but technically it can happen. There is a term called 'Fair Use', a grey area in the world of copyright. But you'll have to look that up for yourself as that is just a whole other story. Your safest bet is to reach out to the source and ask for written consent. 

Personally, I am very happy if someone likes and features any of my photos with the right credits. Probably happier still, if they let me know about it and I can see my content in a different light. Now, the times I get frustrated is when my photograph is being used in a situation where the other parties financially benefit from something I did. I think it would be only fair if the profit is shared with the creator. 

This is a very exhausting and dry topic, but I really hope I gave you some clarity in regards to who, how, and what you should or should not do in the world of licensing and copyrights. In conclusion, ask about your rights when working with a photographer and don't use content without permission. My head feels a bit like cabbage juice right now due to the amount of information I absorbed on this topic.

If you have any questions, please drop me a message in the comment area below.

B x 


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Hey, I'm B. 

I help overwhelmed business owners to get clear on their offerings and online presence, take charge of their visual and content strategy and create cohesive online message.

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